The VIP of my heart
The rule of St. Benedict: “The Instruments of Good Works” #50: “As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your hearts, dash them against Christ”
My confessor once said that when we entertain temptations or negative thoughts, we let Satan into the heart. If we do it repeatedly, then it’s like giving him a VIP card to our heart! So when we convert and decide to reject those temptations or thoughts, he still has his VIP card and is always knocking at the door wanting us to let him in. If Satan tempts or pesters us, it’s only because God gives him permission. So every moment that we aren’t pestered we should be thanking God for that moment. It reminded me of how St. Ignatius said that ingratitude is the greatest sin, and he put giving thanks to God as the first priority in prayer.
Now with only two weeks of Lent remaining, Satan will be pestering every way possible to interrupt our growth in God. As with Ignatius’ rules re: desolations, battle it with the same steps: recognize it, petition God for help, say the Jesus prayer, reject it and keep doing whatever you’re doing. But for the deeper weaknesses, or those wounds healed only on the surface (where Satan previously had dug his claws in deep), you might find yourself still wrestling with the darkness within.
Therein lies the conundrum. When wrestling to control the weakness in order to give it up, you’re still taking hold of it, ultimately being in control. Even though the intent is to throw him out, instead we’ve opened the door to the enemy. Sometimes we end up having God on the left, and the weakness on the right. We’re in the middle with all of our focus, hands and strength on that weakness. Meanwhile, we only solicit God when we need His help!
Yet we keep grasping at the chord of fidelity with God, a true sign of holiness at work. Satan has watched men, women and children grow holy throughout time and he recognizes the pattern. He sets his aim to disrupt our progress.
Childhood: We harbor memories of traumatic times: abuse, neglect, divorce, death of loved ones. Less noticeable and yet very problematic are those smaller moments of childhood: being bullied on the playground, embarrassing moments in the classroom, the natural sexual attraction between boys and girls. Satan saw it all and loves to use it against us in thought attacks, demonic dreams, misperceptions of others, our attitude and how we make choices.
Visual cues: He sees facial expressions, body language, and the slightest of physical changes that reflect an introspective or unveiling moment of growth or understanding. Likewise, by these same observations he can gauge those moments when you are tempted or perhaps having an unloving thought.
Following your growth in relationship with God, known as the ‘spiritual life’: When a Christian decides to make a concerted effort towards holiness, they grow through various stages. These are most commonly referred to as the purgative, illuminative and unitive stages of the spiritual life[i].
For the habitual problems or deeply sore spots, just dash it against Christ as St. Benedict says. Don’t hold onto it for a moment but, instead, thrust it to God with all your heart, mind and soul. St. Benedict’s feast day is today too; good time to solicit his help!
Finally, remember that humility is your greatest strength and God’s love for you, your greatest weapon. Per Servant of God John Hardon, “God chose to become a Man to redeem the human race. God never chose to become an angel to redeem the angelic race.” You matter to Him.
One of my African students said “regardless of whether you think the glass is half empty or half full, there still is twice as much glass as there is water!” Keep that positive outlook! And offer your sufferings for our worldwide church, particularly Pope Francis, our clergy and religious.
Eternal Father, I lift up to You all the priests of the world.
Sanctify them. Heal and guide them.
Mold them into the likeness and holiness of Your Son, Jesus, the Eternal High Priest.
May their lives be pleasing to You.
In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊
Adapted from Kick Butt! The Quick Guide to Spiritual Warfare (Frontline Defense Strategies for Everyday Living)
Photo of St Benedict apotheosis (divinization) by Matthaus Gunther Web Gallery of Art
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